village of west greenville

The Village Wrench | The Village of West Greenville | Blog Series

Greenville has become renowned for its cycling community. It seems like every day I meet another individual who is a cycling enthusiast. It’s no secret that the Swamp Rabbit trail has played a huge part in that. As I continue my adventure in the Village of West Greenville, I just had to learn more about The Village Wrench.

Generally, as you know, It’s Greenville focuses on the individual behind the business, the entrepreneur and business owner. Wes Whitesell was one of the pivotal minds behind The Village Wrench’s birth and he plays a pivotal part in running the show.  During our conversation, however, he made sure that I knew The Village Wrench has been a community effort from the beginning.

It all started as an outreach with Wes’ church in 2014. Their first site was in the backyard of West Greenville Baptist Church. While Wes and his wife had been dedicating their time to the Village for 10 years. Little by little individuals and communities reached out to help the project come to full fruition. The Village Wrench brick and mortar shop opened up last summer on Lois Avenue in the heart of the village. It is now a registered 501c3 of Mill Community Ministries and is organized by The Village Church.

So, what exactly is The Village Wrench? 

“We do three things,” Wes said. “The first is free bike repairs, really for anyone in Greenville, but particularly in The Village of West Greenville. Then we teach the ideas of hard work and responsibility through a bike earning initiative. Finally we do community development. There are many folks in West Greenville who do not have viable transportation needs. We feel that we are meeting a real need. ”

The Village Wrench is your bike shop. You can come in when they are open and use their tools and parts to repair or build your own bike. If you don’t have a bike, you can do eight hours of community service and they will give you a bike.  For kids it’s only four hours of community service. They are an open space to anybody. It’s all free. You don’t have to spend a penny. You can have transportation for zero. Just put the tools back when you’re done, they will coach you on how to do it all.

“Right now the majority of our work isn’t even done in the shop,” Wes said. “We are currently running events on the first Saturday of the month in three different neighborhoods (Sullivan, San Souci, and The Village). People will show up from that neighborhood to work on their bikes. We invite everyone, bring music, bring food. Kids come out. It’s essentially block party. We’re hoping to add more neighborhoods this year.”

The Village Wrench works to create a bridge between the two very different villages of West Greenville. The booming commercial strip has people who shop at the Gap, but a block over there are some who can barely afford to shop at Goodwill. “Our goal is to work shoulder to shoulder with each culture and community and play a role in the slowing down of gentrification,” Wes said. 

They want to provide that first job. “We want to hire three neighborhood kids to be working for us by the end of the year,” Wes said. “They will learn the hard skills of bike maintenance and the soft skills of managing yourself. Our budget is very low, all of the money we make goes to keeping the lights on and paying the neighborhood kids for their work. This is all about a lot of people doing a little amount of consistent work,” Wes said. “I don’t earn a penny from Village Wrench, I’ve never been a part of a volunteer organization that has been supported by so many different people.” 

“This year we’d like to do at least three Six Cycle courses, which is a character and bike learning class,” Wes said. “We focus on doing only a few things and doing them really well. If someone comes along and wants to help expand, then they can help expand in their own way. That helps encourage other volunteers to come alongside of us.”

They also have a cycle club and a pro-team, who act as advocates of the Wrench and work to increase exposure for The Village.

So, would you like a free bike? Go volunteer and do some good in the community. Have your supervisor or someone other than yourself sign their paperwork stating that you have completed your hours and they will hook you up with ride. Sounds like a no-brainer to me. I’m currently in the process of earning my bike! I decided it’s about time I joined the club. What better way to get some exercise, enjoy the outdoors, and also give back to the community?

The Anchorage | The Village of West Greenville | Blog Series

The next stop in our journey through The Village of West Greenville is the highly anticipated restaurant: The Anchorage

If you’ve driven down Pendleton and through The Village of West Greenville within the last couple months, The Anchorage is the building with the beautiful mural on the main drag. According to owner and founder Greg Mcphee, it was “originally the worst looking building on the strip, but it had a lot of character to it.” 

“We looked for a location to open our restaurant in about every neighborhood in Greenville. Initially, we were convinced that the village was not the location we were looking for.”

Greg quickly realized, though, that you can’t replicate the charm that the village has. 

The main strip has free parking and is not over-saturated by directly competing with next-door neighbors. There are still people who say they would never go to the west side of Greenville. But these people have yet to see the charm and character behind the Village. 

There is nowhere else in Greenville like it. “It feels like parts of Charleston to me,” he said. “We bit the bullet, decided to give it a shot. It’s where the name came from. We are anchoring ourselves in Greenville. It became a natural decision.”

The Anchorage is a neighborhood restaurant driven entirely by the clientele. “We want to be able to service our peers once or twice a week and not blow their bank account. We aim to use as many local farms as we can, and this translates to our beverage program. We will carry only local brewers and venders. We want to have them on constant rotation. We’re currently partners with the owners of Community Tap.”

“We’re aiming to be incredibly approachable. Folks will be able to drop in and have a happy hour cocktail, get some inexpensive bar snacks non-reliant on the kitchen, and head home. Or you can come and enjoy a full meal.”

Greg is reversing the expectation of getting eight ounces of meat and four ounces of vegetables, it’s the opposite. They’re focusing on flavor driven food verses the typical usage of lard and fat, such as using olive oils and being vegetable forward. 

“You’ll be able to eat more and not feel gross. We want to be accommodating to the more active lifestyle of Greenville. We don’t have a deep fryer, but rather a custom built Argentinian wood burning grill. 

The restaurant is designed entirely around the bar, with the cocktail program being a big driver. Greg will feature seven different signature cocktails. They’ll have their own clear ice cut right in the restaurant. The bar will have an independent dishwasher for cocktail and wine glasses, eliminating the possibility of food residue and flavor. The bar top is a dazzling white quartz countertop.  

He chose to utilize the talents of the artists in the neighborhood to stylize the restaurant from top to bottom. The tables, light-fixtures, mugs, glasses, outside mural, and all of the artwork were created by artists from the neighborhood. 

“I’ve had the desire for years,” Greg told me, “of opening a restaurant like this.”  Having been a chef at Hotel Domestic 17, an exec at High Cotton, the Terra in West Columbia, and The Lodge, he has an incredible amount of experience. He is more than qualified to be opening his first personally owned restaurant. “It’s been valuable for me to have worked my way up from the bottom to open a restaurant. It provides me with the ability to delegate, have a connection, and share the expectation with our employees.”

The Anchorage will have a Sunday brunch and be open for dinner Tuesday through Saturday. “We won’t be doing lunch as of right now,” Greg said, “it is served at GB&D right now, and it’s awesome. We don’t want to compete with them anyways. Everyone here wants to work together and help each other grow.”

The Village of West Greenville is part of Greenville, but it feels like something entirely different. It is their own neighborhood. A city within a city. “The fact that we are connected to downtown helps,” Greg said. “If you wanted to see a little bit more of Greenville, we are only a three dollar Über ride from downtown. It’s actually easier to get to The Village from Augusta Rd than to get downtown.” When Greg joined the business association of the Village, he watched it grow from six members to forty six in a matter of three weeks. 

“We could very easily have a reservation system,” he continued, “but to protect the people living in the neighborhood we are electing to not. We want there to be equal opportunity. This services the people who work and live in the neighborhood, it forces people to walk to the streets, look at the art galleries, and see the influx of business in the Village.” 

The Anchorage is now open Tuesday through Thursday from 5 - 9:30 and Friday - Saturday from 5 - 10:00.

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